Apps for well-being and mental health

We use technology to enhance our lives every day by shopping online, keeping up to date with friends and making travel plans, but have you thought about using apps to look after your mental health? Stress is present in all of our lives at varying times but for students this is a particularly stressful point in the year with exams, essays and dissertations due, not to mention MA applications. Managing our wellbeing can largely increase our productivity in times of stress.

There are all sorts of apps being developed all the time so we’ve chosen five of our current favourites.

Please note, whilst these apps can be helpful, they are not a replacement for seeking medical advice if you have concerns about any symptoms you are experiencing.

SAM app: SAM will help you to understand what causes your anxiety, monitor your anxious thoughts and behaviour over time and manage your anxiety through self-help exercises and private reflection.This app has been developed in collaboration with a research team from UWE, Bristol.

SAM app on mobile phone

In Hand: This app has been made by a team of people passionate about technology and destigmatising mental health. They have worked together for nearly a year to create an app that promotes awareness of mental well being and could help you in a moment of anxiety or low mood.

In Hand app

Stay Alive: The first of its kind in the UK, the Stay Alive app is a free, nationwide suicide prevention pocket resource, packed full of useful information to help you stay safe. Their vision is that no one has to contemplate suicide alone, the app is designed to be a lifeline for people at risk of suicide.

Stay Alive app

Stop Breathe Think: A friendly app to guide people through meditations for mindfulness & compassion. Check in with how you’re feeling and try short activities tuned to your emotions.

 Stop, Breathe & Think app

Headspace: Headspace is designed to enourage positivity through meditation. Live a happier, healthier life with just a few minutes of meditation a day.

Headspace app

5 new accessibility features in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update released this month has promised ‘breakthroughs in creativity’ – offering options for mixed reality and faster broadcasting for gaming. But, the update - free until the end of the year - also offers several new and updated accessibility features.

Here we offer a snapshot of those updates and what they offer disabled people.

Microsft's latest OS update provides a range of assistive technologies

Eye Control

A beta version of the much talked about Eye Control is now available. It means those who use eye movements for communication, such as people with physical disabilites, can now combine a compatible eye tracker with Windows 10 to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard and text-to-speech experience.

New Learning Tools capabilities in Microsoft Edge (the new Internet Explorer)

Microsoft Learning Tools are a set of features designed to make it easier for people with learning differences like dyslexia to read, says Microsoft. In this update, a user can mow simultaneously highlight and listen to text in web pages and PDF documents to read and increase focus.

Dictation on the Desktop



This feature already allowed people with vision, mobility and cognitive disabilities to speak into their microphone, and convert that using Windows Speech Recognition into text that appears on screen. In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, a person can now use dictation to input text (English only) in a wider variety of ways and applications. As well as dictating text, you can also use voice commands to do basic editing or to input punctuation.

Narrator Screenreader new image descriptions and Magnifier link up

Microsofts screen reader - Narrator - now uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to generate image descriptions for pictures that lack alternative text. For websites or apps that don’t have alt-text built in, this feature will provide quick and accurate descriptions of an image. It's also now possible to use Magnifier with Narrator, so you can zoom in on text and have it read aloud.

Colour Filters for colour blindness colour blindness

Color Filters help those with colour blindness more easily distinguish between colours. All installed software and third-party apps will follow the filter a users sets up. The colour filters are available in greyscale, invert, greyscale inverted, Deuteranopia, Protanopia or Tritanopia.

More information

17 big ways tech is helping disabled people achieve goals: 2016 International Day of Persons with Disabilities #idpd

There are 12 million disabled people in the UK, and an estimated 1.1 billion worldwide. Since 1992 the UN has promoted a day of observance and understanding of disability issue and this year's theme is is 'Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want'. We asked 17 of our followers, supporters and staff about the role of technology can play in achieving current and future life goals.

What is the role of technology in achieving life goals for disabled people?

Prof Stephen Hawking has achieved amazing things in his life thanks to technology

Professor Stephen Hawking

“I was lucky to be born in the computer age, without computers my life would have been miserable and my scientific career impossible. Technology continues to empower people of all abilities and AbilityNet continues to help disabled people in all walks of life.” (2012)

Kate Headley, Director of Consulting, The Clear Company

“As someone who now has limited vision, I can honestly say that technology has been the game changer for me. Although I have no secrets - with large font on phone and computer and I regularly share my texts out loud with fellow passengers. But I am independent at home and at work and just awaiting the driverless car!”

Joanna Wootten: Age, Disability and Inclusion expert at Solutions Included

“Technology has transformed my working life. As a deaf person I can now communicate directly with hearing people using emails, text messages, live messaging, or have conversations with them via Skype or FaceTime.  For larger meetings, the advent of reliable wifi means I can use my mobile phone or tablet to access remote captioning so I don't miss a word."
 

Sarah-Jane Peake, assistive technology trainer, Launchpad Assistive Technology

"Working one-to-one with students, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the wonderful impact technology can make to someone with a disability or specific learning disabilities. The confidence of being able to proof-read an essay using text-to-speech, the independence offered by voice recognition software that finally allows a student to fully express their ideas, or the relief felt by a student who has just discovered mind-mapping strategies that compliment the way they think. Technology is changing people’s lives."
 

Sean Douglas

Sean Douglas, founder of dyslexia podcast The Codpast

"There's masses of tech out there that allows people with disabilities to reach their full potential. Long gone are the days when assistive tech was cumbersome, expensive and specialist, now your smart phone can give you much of the help you need to deal with everyday tasks you may find difficult. "Surprisingly a lot of this assistive functionality is built into your phone's operating system or is available from third parties for free or for a small charge."

Georgina Eversfield Tanner, client of AbilityNet's ITCanHelp volunteering service

I've never had a computer before, but it's opened up a whole new world since my stroke. But I did say one day to Andy, my ITCanHelp volunteer from AbilityNet, 'what idiot put Angry Birds on there. There are so many of them and I'm absolutely hooked! Technology and AbilityNet has helped me tremendously to be in the modern world." See more of Georgina here in our video. 

Gareth Ford WIlliams is Head of Accessibility at BBC Design and Engineering

Gareth Ford Williams, Head of Accessibility, BBC Design and Engineering

“For many disabled people, a simple daily goal is to enjoy the same entertainment options. For video and TV that could mean captioning or audio descriptions, or using the text to speech features in their computer or phone to read out newspapers, magazines or blogs.”

Abbie Osborne, Assessor for AbilityNet

“Education is a vital way for disabled people to achieve their goals. I work with many students who face cognitive impairments such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, which make it difficult for them to organise their thoughts.

"Zotero is one of the most popular free tools I recommend. It takes the pain out of managing references when you’re working on essays and reports and integrates with Microsoft Word to use those references in whichever style you require. It works for Mac and PC, creates an alphabetical list of your sources (bibliography) and can keep track across multiple essays.”

Robin ChristophersonRobin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet

“Technology helps everyone reach their full potential. Like nothing else on this planet, technology can embrace people’s differences and provide choice – choice to suit everyone and empower them to achieve their goals both at work and at play. On this day, please raise the cheer for technology and digital inclusion, wherever in the world you are.”

Morgan Lobb, Director, Diversity Jobs

“Assistive technology makes a real difference, without spellchecker I’d be doomed!”

Nicola Whitehill

Nicola Whitehill - founder of Facebook Group: Raynauds Scleroderma Awareness

“The internet is a lifeline for me. I'm under house arrest with Raynauds, but I still run a global community in my pyjamas!”

Nigel Lewis, CEO of AbilityNet

“Accessible technology can really help disabled people live their lives fuller, let’s all work together to make tech accessible and inclusive on this #idpd and always.”

Sarah Simcoe - chair of SEED Network, Fujitsu UK and Ireland

“Technology plays an important part in building an environment of accessibility and enablement – the use of tools, software and hardware in enabling disabled talent to fulfill their full potential is key to innovation and business growth.”

Hector Minto, Accessibility Evangelist, Microsoft

“There are so many things: Social media and the cloud's ability to connect us all and find people who can relate to our experience. Text communication and short messages are a great leveler. Images and video convey messages much more quickly. Twitter chats, blogs, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups all offer professionals with huge amounts of experience somewhere to share their knowledge. 

"It's all part of the Global Cloud for Good agenda - we need to understand Industrial Revolution 4.0 - the Internet of Things, and automation for example - and our place in it. We need a socially responsible cloud which improves life for everyone and leaves nobody behind.

"Finally I still think eyegaze as a direct control method needs to be tried first for people with physical access issues. The price is changing and the previously held view that it was only for those that had tried everything else is completely out of date but pervasive.”

Bela Gor is a Disability Legal Adviser at Business Disability ForumBela Gor, Disability Legal Adviser, Business Disability Forum

“In twenty years of disability discrimination legislation, the biggest change has been that what was once impossible or unreasonably difficult is now entirely possible - because of technology. Technology means that the way we all live and work has changed immeasurably and 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people have become the ordinary way of life for everyone because of the technology on our desks, in our pockets and in our homes and workplaces.”

Kate Nash OBE, founder of PurpleSpace community of disability employee networks

"At PurpleSpace we are massive advocates of virtual networking and learning. While our members have a wide range of disabilities, the accessibility features built into smartphones, tablets and PCs mean that we can keep in touch and share career development opportunities on an equal level regardless of the different ways that we access technologies."

Ed Holland leads Driven MediaEdward Hollands, founder of Driven Media UK

“I use lots of assistance software to over come my spelling and grammar issues to look more professional as a founder. I don't write anything without Grammarly now. It's like having my own copywriter! Anyone who is dyslexic should definitely get it.”

How can AbilityNet help you make the most of tech?

AbilityNet staff gain national volunteer management qualification

AbilityNet staff have completed a national qualification in volunteer management to support their work with a network of over 8,000 volunteers with IT skills. This will help them support the continued growth of the volunteer network, who help meets the IT needs of charities and disabled people. Volunteer Administrator Josie Ray and Advice and Information Officer Alex Barker have both been awarded the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Certification.

“It made sense to study for this qualification as AbilityNet works closely with volunteers” said Alex. "We have a UK-wide team of volunteers who provide home visits for disabled people in the community. They are all CRB/Disclosure checked and can help with all kinds of technical issues, from installing broadband and removing viruses to setting up new software and backups. We also have a network of IT professionals who provide IT support to charities, including web design, databases and troubleshooting and helping to reduce costs and improve services. ”

Volunteering manager Anne Stafford said “It is important to AbilityNet that we deliver high standards & our volunteers are important members of our team. I am pleased that our staff have the opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism in volunteer engagement.”

More information:

Mind the Digital Gap: AbilityNet proposes new digital inclusion strategy

In our increasingly digital self-service economy technology now dominates shopping, entertainment, work and communication, as well as citizenship itself, but age and disability are barring people from full participation. Organisations like AbilityNet, Go ON UK and its disability focused partner, Go ON Gold, are making great strides to close the gap between the computer literate and the technologically disenfranchised, but the gulf is wider than that. 

AbilityNet’s new digital inclusion strategy ‘Mind the Digital Gap’ looks at the obstacles faced by the huge numbers of people who struggle to use digital technologies that are badly designed and just don't meet their needs. AbilityNet believes that we urgently need to recognise the social and economic costs of this digital gap, and identify clear actions to begin closing it.

Mind the Digital Gap logoThe strategy was launched at the House of Commons on 21 November at a reception hosted by Anne McGuire MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People. It calls for better design practices through implementing user-focused testing at all stages of the design of digital systems (rather than relying on post-hoc accessibility checks).

AbilityNet urges those who commission and build online services, operating systems and digital devices (whether business, government or third sector) to put a user-centred approach at the heart of the design process. The strategy also proposes tax incentives to promote inclusive design, closer partnerships between business and other sectors and a commitment to embed inclusive design at all levels of professional design education.

AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis says it's time to change how we design and deliver inclusive digital systems:

"For too long the debate about accessibility has focused on issues that are specific to disabled people, but testing a website after it has been built, or pursuing legal action to ensure that every website includes alt-tags for people who use a screen reader, just isn't working.

“There is a much more important strategic issue at stake and we need a new approach that goes beyond what we currently think of as ‘Accessibility’. To close that gap, it’s imperative that business, government and the third sector work together."

AbilityNet patron and chair of Go ON UK Martha Lane Fox agrees and believes that in addition to making design practices more inclusive we need to focus equipping people with the skills they need to participate in the digital age:

"Both Go ON UK and AbilityNet are working on building digital skills to enable everyone to benefit as much as possible from available technology."

The full strategy is available for download on the AbilityNet website.

 

Anne McGuire MP and Nigel Lewis of AbilityNet at the launch of AbilityNet's Mind the Digital Gap, House of Commons, November 2012'

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Anne McGuire with AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis at the reception at the House of Commons.

See more pictures from the event on Flickr

Is there an Echo in here? Six ways that Alexa can help you be organised and productive

We now have three Amazon Echos in our house and, more and more often, I find myself about to speak to the air in a room where Alexa isn't, and have to stop myself before I look foolish. Here's a round-up of recent epiosodes from my Dot-to-Dot podcast which show why smart speakers like the Amazon Echo (AKA Alexa) and Google Home are so useful - and also addictive.

Simpler than a smartphone

Smart speakers really do represent the next significant paradigm shift in computing.

The PC was powerful but also complex. Then came the smartphone which, with its smaller screen, brought simpler content with the same amount of power and much more portability. Throw away your software instructions manuals and antivirus anxieties and enjoy the all-round easier experience. One didn't replace the other, but choice is a good thing - especially when the options are getting easier and easier to use.

Then came these natural-voice focused devices and the simplicity score just shot up several more notches. Again, not intended to replace smartphones or computers, these devices offer huge amounts of useful features nonetheless.

Information, entertainment, services and so much more

Most of us use our phones for so many different things each day that it would be hard to list them all. While smart speakers can't (yet) do all of those things, due to their ease of use and overall usefulness, it's inevitable that having one or more in your house will mean that some of those daily tasks will shift from your phone to the helpful assistant who is ever-listening and ready to help.

A lot of what I cover in Dot to Dot - the daily podcast about all things Alexa - focuses on entertainment and she is so very good at a wide variety of games. IBut not's just about trivia - I recently dedicated a series of episodes to the way Alexa can help with being organised and productive.

Six ways Alexa can help in your daily life

These episodes to give you a flavour of Alexa's awesome array of talents. You can click on the links to listen to each one - or you can subscribe in iTunes or by searching for 'Dot to Dot' in your favourite podcast app. 

Dot to Dot - Episode 522 on finding out general information

  • This one's all about getting general information from Alexa - from facts on every possible topic, to detailed weather info, word definitions and synonyms and language translation.

Dot to Dot - Episode 523 on health and cooking

  • From recipes and cooking tips to first aid info and stopping smoking motivation - this one’s all about health. Like with all these episodes, we cover Alexa's built-in abilities as well as third-party skills. What are skills? They're basically apps for your Echo.

Dot to Dot - Episode 524 on news, timers and alarms

  • Some of the most useful things you could ever use your Echo for are setting multiple cooking timers and a variety of alarms to make sure you're up in the morning. When you're up, there are a million ways of catching up with the news.

Dot to Dot - Episode 525 on accessing media of all kinds

  • Music, radio stations and podcasts from around the world are available on your Echo and there's a huge amount of educational and informative content to be consumed. The challenge is just where to start.

Dot to Dot - Episode 526 on reminders, connected devices, voice calling and audio and Kindle books

  • This one is chock-full of tips on setting reminders, connecting to smart devices around the home, calling and messaging using your Echo and even listening to your favourite audio or Kindle books read out by Alexa. Oh and buying things by voice from Amazon - nearly forgot that one!

Dot to Dot - Episode 527 on travel info and tips on finding Alexa skills

  • This final episode (and a gold star to everyone who listens to/survives them all) covers a range of travel skills to help you find the best driving route, check the traffic or get train times and the cheapest fares. We also cover how to ask Alexa to help you find out what she can do and how to remember your favourite skills.

Clever, entertaining and useful

I hope you'll agree that smart speakers like Alexa are amazingly useful and entertaining on so many levels. For people with disabilities the ability to get news and other information by voice and to control your media and environment with a word is a game-changer.

The episoides in this article focus on her non-game skills, but to hear what Alexa can do in the game-department then simply subscribe to Dot to Dot and you'll find out a lot more on a daily basis.

Robin Christopherson is head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet. Find more of his blogs here. 
 

Winners Announced for AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards 2018

The power of technology to transform the lives disabled people was as a key theme as the winners of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards 2018 were announced at the eighth annual awards ceremony in BT Centre, London.

This year’s winners included Be My Eyes, an accessibility app that uses a smartphone to connect blind people with sighted volunteers, TapSOS an app originally designed for the Deaf community that provides a non-verbal way of contacting the Emergency Services and WaytoB a navigation aid for people with learning disabilities.

the winners of the tech4good awrads 2018 were announced at a glittering ceremony at BT Centre in July 2018

The Tech4Good Awards are organised by AbilityNet and sponsored by BT and supported by charities and businesses including Lloyds Banking Group, Microsoft and Tech Trust. The judging panel includes experts from the BBC, tech industry, charity and government. These are the only awards to highlight the amazing people from charities, business and volunteers across who use digital technology to make the world a better place. Entry is free and open to any business, charity, individual or public body in the UK. 

The awards ceremony took place on 17 July at BT Centre, London, where more than 200 people came together to discover who won this year's Awards:

  • AbilityNet Accessibility Award: Be My Eyes
  • BT Connected Society Award: Small Robot Company
  • BT Young Pioneer Award: Water Watcher
  • Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award: Unlocking Talent Through Technology
  • Community Impact Award: Mind of My Own (MOMO)
  • Digital Health Award: TapSOS
  • Digital Skills Award: Generation Code
  • Tech Volunteer of the Year Award: Anna Holland Smith
  • Tech4Good People’s Award: WaytoB
  • Winner of Winners Award: Be My Eyes

The Awards are organised by Mark Walker at AbilityNet, who is pictured below with BBC Click presenter Kate Russell, who hosts the event, Ian Caveney of BT and Ben Scott Robinson of the Small Robot Company, winners of the BT Connected Society Award 2018.

Small Robot Company won the BT Connected Society Award at AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards 2018

Mark said everyone was still buzzing after another amazing event:

“We've had another fantastic year, with so many inspiring stories from people who are using tech to make the world a better place. We had over 200 high-quality entries and our 35 finalists included big tech names such as Microsoft and Facebook, along with small charities, startups and lots of volunteers. 

"Our judging panel includes tech, charity and business experts from a huge range of organisations, including the BBC, BT, Comic Relief and Government. The standard was much higher than usual so they had a really tough time choosing the winners. 

“The Award Ceremony is such an uplifting event - it's wonderful to meet so many amazing people who are using their passion for technology to change the lives of other people. It's such a privilege to celebrate their success and help them share their stories to inspire others. Everyone at AbilityNet is so proud of the way the Tech4Good Awards has grown over the past eight years - and so grateful for the support we get from BT and all the other partners and supporters."

More details

Smartwatch app which helps people with a learning disability travel more independently makes finals of Tech4Good Awards

Tech4Good Accessibility Award finalist waytoB, founded by two students, has integrated a smartphone and smartwatch platform to help people with a learning disability navigate their environment more independently. It's currently being trialled in Ireland and is a finalist in this year's Tech4Good Awards, which celebrate the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

waytoB has been created so that a carer, friend or family member can add safe routes via a smartphone platform for a person with a learning disability. That person adds the routes with their smartphone and is then able to track the location, heart rate and battery life of the person with the learning disability. They also get notified of key journey events (e.g getting lost, stopping for longer than expected, showing high levels of anxiety, etc.).

The person who has a learning disability follows icon-based instructions on their watch to better navigate their environment, with the watch vibrating when there's a new instruction.

Universal Design principles

WaytoB has been designed to be as flexible and inclusive as possible, providing independence to everyone: people with learning disabilities including autism, the elderly, and people with physical, cognitive, visual and hearing impairments. The project started in 2014 as part of an innovation module in user-centered design at Trinity College, Dublin. From the very beginning, students Talita Holzer Saad and Robbie Fryers developed their solution with the principles of Universal Design in mind, to ensure it is accessible to every type of user. 

In 2015, Public Health England estimated that there were more than one million people with a learning disability in England alone. Often people with a learning disability rely on others for transport and assistance to access their community, so WaytoB has the potential to open up independence.

A spokesperson for WaytoB said: “A study conducted by IDS-TILDA (at Trinity College) found that the majority of people with a learning disability over the age of 40 that it spoke to are dependent upon others for transportation and access options - and that the need for such assistance was the greatest barrier to successfully participating in social activities."

Standard navigation apps not safe for everyone

waytoB ’s research has also shown tthat popular smartphone apps for wayfinding are not suitable for those with learning disabilities - both from a cognitive perspective, and from a safety aspect, ie walking while trying to follow a smartphone screen presents risks from traffic, crime, and others.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion for AbilityNet adds: “waytoB is a really innovative take on the satnav, that all-important guide most of us use every day. By combining smartphone and smartwatch features this is navigation with a twist – specifically designed to provide that extra help needed by users with a learning difficulty or disability.”

  • You can vote for waytoB in the AbilityNet Tech4Good People's Award here - which closes on 9 July.
  • Winners of the 8th AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards will be announced on 17 July in London.  
  •  

Tech4Good Accessibility Award: Microsoft Seeing AI app reaches the finals of AbilityNet competition

Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which audibly explains what it sees in front a phone camera, is an amazing tool for blind people and has reached the finals of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award. Now in their eighth year the awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Microsoft Seeing AI used for seven million tasks  

Since launching in July 2017, the app has assisted blind and partially-sighted users in completing more than seven million tasks and has been downloaded by 200,000 users.

The app harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to open up the visual world and describe nearby scenes, people, food in supermarkets and more, with spoken audio. Its key features include real-time text reading, audio-based barcode locator and product-recogniser, face recognition and emotion/age/gender description, currency recognition, colour-recognition, audible light detector and handwriting reader.

Understand more about the Seeing AI app on the film below. 

The app can also describe inaccessible images in other apps, including Twitter, and WhatsApp. Additionally, Seeing AI allows users to teach the device to recognise instantly when friends and colleagues are visible.

It is still being developed and added to by Microsoft employees after being created at a company hackathon event in 2014 by three members of staff. 

Checking homework and being more productive at work

A spokesperson for Seeing AI said: “Blind students in school can now read inaccessible paper text which is not in braille or does not have a digital equivalent. Similarly, blind parents are reading books, checking the handwritten homework of their kids and notes from teachers. People are also using it to get more productive at their day jobs and be able to achieve much more during office hours.”

The app joins four other finalists in the Accessibility category of the awards, last year won by Bristol Braille Technology. Four out of five of the finalists in this category in 2018 have developed or used technology to help people who are blind or who have sight loss understand more of the world around them. 

Machine learning technology

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, adds: “I'd like to thank Microsoft for bringing real cutting-edge machine learning to a group of users with such evident needs in this area. While none of the smarts within Seeing AI are solely or even primarily intended for blind users, it takes a company as acutely aware of the importance of accessibility as Microsoft to do such an excellent implementation that brings the best of AI to those who benefit most." Read Robin's full blog on Seeing AI, here

 

GiveVision: Digital magnifier combined with binoculars for people with low vision reaches Tech4Good finals

New technologies for people with sight loss and those who are blind are a key theme in the finals of the AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award this year.

Four out of five finalists are using tech to offer people with sight loss more understanding of the visual world. GiveVision has developed what it calls ‘the next generation of low vision aids’.  Its first prototype - SightPlus - currently works as an advanced digital magnifier and a pair of binoculars, giving people with low vision the ability to see much more of their surroundings and in greater detail. In the video below, you'll hear from Libby Powell, Paralympian, on her experiences with the aid. 

The technology, which combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets, has taken GiveVision - a company of software engineers, researchers and social entrepreneurs - to the finals of the 8th AbilityNet Tech4Good Accessibility Award. The awards are supported by BT and celebrate some of the amazing people who use tech to help make the world a better place.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, comments: “GiveVision takes the best of image enhancement technology and uses it to address the challenges faced by the many millions of people with a vision impairment worldwide.”

Over the last four years, the company has worked with hundreds of tester to refine and develop the vision aid. It says the most commonly sold sight aids are handheld magnifiers, which have limited fields of view and functionalities compared to SightPlus.

A spokesperson for GiveVision told AbilityNet: “The device enables testers to have their hands free, which drastically changes the way they can engage in an activity. For instance, imagine having to hold a monocular to watch a play for two hours. With the technology, users can also capture more visual information by adjusting the zoom, contrast or brightness."

Second incarnation is similar shape to glasses

The second incarnation of the product (shown below), currently due out next year is a more discreet option. It will use the same technology but be smaller and more slimline, similar to a pair of glasses.

Sight Plus mark 2 slimline glasses

The company is excited to be now embarking on a study with Moorfields Eye Hospital to test its device further. 

The importance of assistive technology

On the growing need for assistive technologies for people with sight loss, GiveVision explained: “Today an estimated 217 million have moderate or severe sight impairments, and this number is predicted to double in the next three decades.

"The issue with sight conditions, such as Macular Degeneration or Diabetic Retinopathy is that there is no cure, or there is a limited treatment that can slow down the progression of a disease but doesn't restore the vision. Patients who are registered partially sighted or blind will have to rely on assistive technologies.

“While the use of a smartphone with accessibility features or applications has increased, our research and testing shows it’s more useful and desirable for some people, particularly older generations, to have a dedicated magnifying device,” they added.